Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps

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Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps


National Trust

Bedruthan Steps 22.jpg
Bedruthan Beach
Grid reference: SW849695
Website: Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps

Carnewas is a stretch of dramatic coastline on the north coast of Cornwall north of Newquay. The Bedruthan Steps reach up the cliffs here, from Bedruthan Beach. The beaches are of golden sand, beaten by the Atlantic waves.

The name Carnewas is from the ancient Cornish language; Karn Havos means "cairn of summer-dwelling". This is a popular beach destination, enjoying spectacular clifftop views stretch across the beach and out to sea.

The National Trust owns the cliffs, though not the beach. The Trust maintains a shop and cafe and the cliff–top view of rocks stretching into the distance along Bedruthan beach.

The beach and the cliffs make this a popular attraction for tourists and painters. Fine, brisk walks may be enjoyed along the coast path.

The Bedruthan Steps and the beaches

The Bedruthan Steps are a set of steep steps cut into the cliff reaching down to Bedruthan Beach, from where at low water one may visit a number of the little rock-bound beaches adjoining.

The National Trust has rebuilt the cliff staircase, but they have a lurking hazard: the beaches are narrow and are separated and then overwhelmed by the rising tide; visitors who step away from the immediate beach may find themselves cut off by the tide.

Also, as warning signs say, the currents in the bay are treacherous and one should not risk swimming in the waters due to heavy rips, fast tides and submerged rocks.

The name "Bedruthan" is also from Cornish; Bos Rudhen may mean "Red-one's dwelling" or similar. The local tale is that the Bedruthan Steps are named for a giant called 'Bedruthan' who used the rocks (stacks) on the beach as stepping stones, though this, alas, seems to be a late nineteenth century invention for Victorian tourists. The first written record of the name is from the West Briton newspaper in February 1847 and is likely to refer to one of two cliff staircases used by miners to get to the mine workings and now refers to the whole beach.[1]

Park Head

Park Head {Expression error: Unexpected < operator.&y=Expression error: Unexpected < operator.&z=120 SW84170) is also part of the National Trust's estate. It is a small headland marking the north limit of the bay.


There have been people in the area since at least the Bronze Age with six barrows nearby to the north, and overlooking Bedruthan Steps is Redcliff Castle, which dates back to at least the Iron Age.

Redcliff Castle has three ramparts divided by two ditches, part of which have been quarried to improve the defences. Much of the internal parts of the castle have been eroded by the sea. There is a second castle within a mile to the north at Park Head and two miles to the south at Griffin's Point, a third. Cliff Castles or Promontory forts are defensive structures which are thought by archaeologists to be permanently occupied.[1]

In 2009 a menhir or longstone was discovered in a boundary hedge close to the coastal footpath. The stone lies on its side and is 9 feet long.[2]

There is evidence of mining with shafts on the cliffs nearby at Trenance Point, and adits above the beach at Carnewas. The National Trust shop was originally the count house (office) of Carnewas Mine and the cafe was one of the mine buildings. Between 1871 and 1874, 940 tons of brown haematite were produced and it is thought that the ladders and steps to the beach were needed to reach the mine workings.

Each of the stacks has a name and from north to south they are Queen Bess, Samaritan Island, Redcove Island, Pendarves Island and Carnewas Island. Samaritan Island is named after a ship the Good Samaritan which was wrecked there in October 1846 with the loss of nine lives.


"Bedruthan Steps and Park Head" is an 200 acres “Site of Special Scientific Interest”, designated for its geological and biological interest in 1951. The site was subject to a revision in 1973 and re-notified in 1986. It is noted for its slates and fossils from the Middle Devonian period, various mosses and beetles.[3]

Bedruthan Steps is also a Geological Conservation Review (GCR) site because it is a ″source of rare fish specimens″ which were first reported in 1848 by W Pengelly.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Le Messurier, Brian (1998). Trevose to Watergate Bay including Bedruthan Steps (not NT). National Trust. pp. 8. 
  2. Harper, Sheila. "Carnewas Longstone - Standing Stone (Menhir)". The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  3. "Bedruthan Steps and Park Head". Natural England. 1986. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  4. "Geological Conservation Review. Bedruthan Steps". JNCC. Retrieved 24 December 2012.